Despite the cold and drizzly weather, I see more and bigger flocks of robins around the island. In the morning there are lots of birds busy at work on my lawn and in my gardens, but the robins are the ones that seem the most industrious. They have such an earnest attitude as they find a worm and pull it out in their capable beaks.
Watching them at work in my vegetable garden, I have a sense of what it would take to get me out there digging and planting, and I can tell I don’t quite have it yet. Gray and 40 degrees does not inspire the springtime feelings in me. Somehow the daffodils bloom every year right around this time no matter what. I seem to operate more at the whim of the weather.
Attending the most recent community center potluck were two stone wall builders from Reading, Vt., who built the wall around the new Chappy cemetery across from the community center. They’ve been spending a week or two at a time here, living at the Brines’ house, and then returning home to take care of the business of their regular lives. It looks like their work is done except for the leftover stones lying here and there like randomly placed gravestones.
It was nice to see the wall taking shape. It’s a sturdy wall, laid up dry with large gravel filling the crevices between the stones on the inside of the wall. I snooped around one day when no one was there and saw a bunch of narrow holes about five feet deep. I wondered if they were for footings, thinking that deep footings would make sense in Vermont but would be unnecessary here. In fact they are for the granite posts marking the entry ways into the cemetery: three entries at the back and one wider one at the front. One of the wall builders told me the posts were put in deep and the holes filled with gravel so that they would stay solidly in place for future generations. A large flat piece of granite lies on the ground across the front entry, wide enough for a vehicle to enter. On the granite is engraved: The New Chappaquiddick Cemetery.
The next community center potluck will be on Wednesday, April 16 beginning at 6 p.m. for hors d’oeuvres and 6:30 p.m. for dinner. Annie Heywood will be the host. The subsequent potluck will be on May 7.
The Trustees of Reservations hosted a surprise retirement party for David Belcher at the community center on Tuesday. Kate Conde, Trustees conservation ranger, said he was surely surprised. About 60 people came by throughout the afternoon. There was pizza and chocolate cake from the Black Dog Bakery, and Judy Dimond made delicious cupcakes. The Cape Pogue Trustees staff chipped in and gave Dave a metal detector he can’t wait to use in Florida. The staff also put on a slide show of memorable events during Dave’s 19 years with the Trustees. His wife, Cathie, was back from Florida, so it was a nice opportunity for her to catch up with friends and neighbors, too. As Kate said, “It turned out to be such a lovely farewell.”
At the next selectmen’s meeting, on Monday, April 14, at 4 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of the town hall, Chappy ferry owner Peter Wells will ask for an increase in the round-trip cash fares for autos and passengers, from $10 to $12 for a car and from $3 to $4 for a passenger. Although prices will also go up on discounted and subsidized tickets, the percentage of the discount will basically stay the same or increase. The percentage-off prices of the discount passenger ticket books (for sale to anyone) will actually double to be more in line with the discount for cars, which is 33 per cent off the cash fare. According to Peter, he’s increasing fares due to higher fuel costs, increased maintenance due to the strong current since the breach at Norton Point, additional safety equipment costs, and to fund a new ferry in the fall.
In the Chappy recollections book, Chappaquiddick That Sometimes Separated But Never Equalled Island, which is being expanded and reprinted through the hard work of Hatsy Potter, there is a chapter on an alternative to ferry service — the bridge that didn’t get built. In 1923 a three-span iron bridge was proposed to be built near the “swimming place.” The proponents said the increase in property values would produce taxes sufficient to cover the cost of building the bridge in 20 years. At this time, the ferry was a skiff rowed by Jimmy Yates, which could tow a scow for taking wagons, cars, and animals across.
The bridge proponents also investigated other ferry boat options including a side-wheel boat and a cable boat. They considered a tunnel, too, but besides the huge cost, they thought “there would be great danger to persons walking or riding in exposed vehicles through the tunnel of taking cold or sickness.”
One of the problems with a ferry, they said, was that it “would require two men, if not more, who are strong, healthy, who will not become intoxicated or sick, and will attend without failure, to their duties.” Despite their pessimism about operating an adequate ferry service, we seem to have done pretty well over the years. And think of the alternatives.